Friday, November 07, 2008

a short honeymoon

Barack Obama may be the first president whose honeymoon ends before he takes office. It has not been three days since the election and already he has been greeted with bad economic news--another quarter of a million unemployed and GM and Ford teetering on the edge of bankruptcy--on top an already awful situation. At today's press conference, he suggested a stimulus package may not be able to wait until January, but should be enacted by a lame duck session of Congress this year, presumably involving a new, if not wholly unprecedented, level of cooperation between the outgoing and incoming administrations.

In response to all this, Obama has displayed a pretty sure hand, suggesting sensible appointments (Lawrence Summers at Treasury, Robert Gates possibly continuing at Defense) and appearing both confident and well-informed at today's press conference. Many of his supporters have been somewhat less sober, criticizing possible appointments (notably Summers) and appearing to spoil for a fight on other issues. (The Republicans have been engaged in a campaign post-mortem, including allegations that Sarah Palin did not know whether Africa was a country or continent, and remained largely on the sidelines so far.)

An example of the conflicting pressures Obama will face could be found on today's N.Y. Times op-ed page, where David Brooks envisioned an "ostentatiously pragmatic" administration driven by "postpartisan politics" while Paul Krugman, a few inches away, called for "a new era of progressive politics" including tax changes, health care reform, and a huge stimulus package that could result, in Krugman's own estimate, in a trillion-dollar plus deficit. As if to separate the two combatants, Orlando Patterson wrote of the election as part of America's "eternal revolution" and warned against excessive expectations of an Obama presidency. Maybe a Department of Sociology wouldn't be such a bad idea, after all.


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